Bullying and Harrassment

What's Required
States and school districts also have a responsibility under Section 504, Title II, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which is enforced by OSERS, to ensure that a free appropriate public education (FAPE) is made available to eligible students with disabilities. Disability harassment may result in a denial of FAPE under these statutes. Parents may initiate administrative due process procedures under IDEA, Section 504, or Title II to address a denial of FAPE, including a denial that results from disability harassment. Individuals and organizations also may file complaints with OCR, alleging a denial of FAPE that results from disability harassment. In addition, an individual or organization may file a complaint alleging a violation of IDEA under separate procedures with the state educational agency. State compliance with IDEA, including compliance with FAPE requirements, is monitored by OSERS' Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).

What We Do

First campus administration needs to document and investigate if the occurrence constitutes harassment or bullying: 

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) have stated that bullying may also be considered harassment when it is based on a student’s race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or religion.

Harassing behaviors may include:

  • unwelcome conduct such as verbal abuse, name calling, epithets, or slurs
  • graphic or written statements
  • threats
  • physical assault
  • other conduct that may be physically threatening, harmful, or humiliating

            Note: If a student with a disability is being bullied, these federal laws require schools to take immediate and appropriate action to investigate the issue and, as necessary, take steps to stop the bullying and prevent it from recurring. (OCR Dear Colleague Letter)

            The school is required to take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the bullying, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent it from recurring, and, as appropriate, remedy its effects. 

            As you investigate, be aware then when OCR is investigating they ask these questions:

            • Was a student with a disability bullied by one or more students based on the student’s disability?
            • Was the bullying conduct sufficiently serious to create a hostile environment? 
            • Did the school know or should it have known of the conduct? 
            • Did the school fail to take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the conduct, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent it from recurring, and, as appropriate, remedy its effects? 
            If we determine bullying has occurred administrators should:
            1. Listen and focus on the child. Learn what’s been going on and show you want to help.  
            2. Assure the child that bullying is not their fault. 
            3. Know that kids who are bullied may struggle with talking about it. Consider referring them to a school counselor, psychologist, or other mental health service.
            4. Give advice about what to do. This may involve role-playing and thinking through how the child might react if the bullying occurs again.
            5. Work together to resolve the situation and protect the bullied child. The child, parents, and school or organization may all have valuable input. It may help to:
            • Ask the child being bullied what can be done to make him or her feel safe. Remember that changes to routine should be minimized. He or she is not at fault and should not be singled out. For example, consider rearranging classroom or bus seating plans for everyone. If bigger moves are necessary, such as switching classrooms or bus routes, the child who is bullied should not be forced to change.
            • Develop a game plan. Maintain open communication between schools, organizations, and parents.
            • Discuss the steps that are taken and the limitations around what can be done based on policies and laws. Remember, the law does not allow school personnel to discuss discipline, consequences, or services given to other children.
            • Be persistent. Bullying may not end overnight. Commit to making it stop and consistently support the bullied child.
                    6. Follow-up. Show a commitment to making bullying stop. Because bullying is behavior that repeats or has the potential to be repeated, it takes consistent effort to ensure that it stop

            Administrators, teachers, and staff should avoid these common mistakes:
            • Never tell the child to ignore the bullying.
            • Do not blame the child for being bullied. Even if he or she provoked the bullying, no one deserves to be bullied.
            • Do not tell the child to physically fight back against the kid who is bullying. It could get the child hurt, suspended, or expelled.
            • School or other officials can act as mediators between parents. Parents need to resist the urge to contact the other parents involved. It may make matters worse.